The 2011 season saw the beginning of a changing of the guard in Kansas City. Several of the young players we’ve been hearing about for years were called up and made their debut performances in the majors. Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella, and a slew of young relief pitchers demonstrated why the Royals have been predicted to contend beginning in 2012 and compete for a playoff berth in the near future. Notwithstanding the fact that Giavotella was recently demoted to Omaha and Salvador Perez’ recent injury, the Royals youth movement looks very promising.
One of the premiere players predicted to lead the second wave of the youth movement is outfielder Wil Myers. Myers was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft, not because there were 90 players available who were more talented, but primarily because of “signability issues.” He’s a first round talent that Baseball America has ranked as the Royals 3rd best prospect behind Mike Montgomery and Bubba Starling. Myers began his minor league career as a catcher, but was moved to the outfield to hasten his development time and to make way for defensive whiz Salvador Perez – very good forward thinking on the Royals part.
Wil Myers experienced nothing but success during his first two seasons of professional ball. However, in 2011, he struggled at the plate, hitting just .254 in 99 games for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. You might think that Wil’s knee injury suffered early last season from jumping over a wet sidewalk, or the subsequent stitches and staples, or the resulting infection and ultimately surgery were the issues that derailed his progress. However, Myers said he was just thinking too much, “I was pressing and overthinking things. Trying to work on too many things. I couldn’t get my foot down (for proper timing.) I was getting a little too selective.“
Last Fall, Myers found his touch again at the showcase for young talent, the Arizona Fall League. Myers tore up opposing future pitching stars to the tune of .360/.481/.674, one of the top performances in the AFL and better than Bryce Harper by every measurement except home runs.
It was reported last November that the Royals were interested in the Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens, but the deal was nixed because the Braves wanted Wil Myers in return. There are mixed reviews on Jurrjens future and his persistent knee problems, but he is projected as the Braves opening day pitcher on a deep staff (due to Tim Hudson’s injury) and he certainly could have improved the Royals weak starting rotation. If this report is true, the fact Dayton Moore didn’t pull the trigger on the trade tells us the Royals have plans for Myers that involve using him as more than just a trade chip.
Assuming Myers picks up anywhere near where he left off in the AFL, he’ll be banging on the Royals door sometime this year. The question is, what do the Royals do with him when this happens? Dayton Moore, Ned Yost and company haven’t answered this question yet. With a trio of skilled outfielders already patrolling the grass at Kauffman, the Royals brass will have some tough decisions to make.
It’s unlikely Wil would be promoted just to sit on the bench as the 4th outfielder as this could stunt his continued development. It’s best for him to be a starting outfielder, regardless of whether this occurs in Omaha or Kansas City. The only potential easy answer would be that Myers (if he performs well) could be called up when a starting outfielder stumbles, which of course we all hope doesn’t happen. I think we would all prefer that his strong performance in the minors demands a promotion rather than receiving a promotion by default.
While the most likely destination for Wil is in right field, he has played all three outfield positions in the minors. Although Alex Gordon hasn’t been locked up long term yet, we all believe it’s just a matter of time before this happens, and the consensus opinion says the delay hasn’t been for any lack of desire on the Royals part to get a deal done. This makes it unlikely that Myers would inherit left field.
Myers could go to center field, but this position isn’t a natural fit for him. We haven’t seen a large sample size from Lorenzo Cain hitting against major league pitching, but in Spring Training he has demonstrated the probability that he can more than hold his own. So once again, it’s somewhat unlikely Myers would end up in center field.
This leaves Jeff Francoeur, the fun loving, cannon-armed leader of the Royals outfield as a potential casualty of a Wil Myers promotion. Would the Royals then trade Francoeur to a contender if Myers promotion occurred prior to the deadline? It’s possible, but Frenchy is signed through 2013 and while his pay rate isn’t outrageous, at $7.5 million in 2013, it isn’t an amount that most teams would be excited to take on. Francoeur is a team player, but it’s hard to picture him sitting on the bench next to Yuniesky Betancourt. (Yuni is going to be sitting on the bench, right? Please tell me Yuni will be sitting on the bench…)
Another possibility is that Myers performs well this year, but not so well that he can displace one of the Royals current outfielders. (Does that sound familiar Lorenzo Cain? Déjà vu from 2011.) Then maybe he’ll receive a call up in September and a taste of the big leagues to see what he can do at the major league level.
None of this conjecture really provides us with any answers for 2012, and if the Royals have any answers regarding their plans for Myers, they aren’t revealing them yet. It’s possible that things could work out so the Royals won’t be forced to make a decision this year. But next year in 2013, barring a major injury among Gordon, Cain, Francoeur, and Myers, or a major setback in performance from any one of this group, the Royals will have no choice but to let us in on their little secret.
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Topics: AL Central, Alex Gordon, Baseball, Bubba Starling, Dayton Moore, Eric Hosmer, Jair Jurrjens, Jeff Francoeur, Johnny Giavotella, Kansas City, Kansas City Royals, KC, KC Royals, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Montgomery, Mike Moustakas, MLB, Ned Yost, Royals, Salvador Perez, Wil Myers, Yuniesky Betancourt